My salad dressing days

Pedantry, myopia and vintage Dolly
September 6, 2005, 11:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

** Google Grammar Alert **
It has come to our attention that Ms Chick has been propagating falsehoods as regards Latin plurals, specifically the plural of ‘referendum’. Having received correspondence from individuals going by the names of Mrs M Hen and Mr O Rooster (who claim to be retired Latin teachers), we can now confirm that ‘referendum’ is indeed a gerund and not a noun and that the appropriate plural is indeed ‘referendums’. In a bid to ensure fairness to all parties, we emailed Ms Chick to allow her a right to reply for inclusion in this alert. Her response was: “Ecce Romani! Mea culpa!” Oh, and she has agreed to edit the second segment of this post for clarity, because – as rightly pointed out by Mrs M Hen and Mireille – the non-dead dog in question was indeed a West Highland Terrier.

Google Grammar Gendarmerie
7 September 2005

So our voter registration comes through the letterbox and I dutifully read the accompanying leaflet as instructed.

Imagine my horror when I read: “…which is used for elections, referendums and certain other purposes.”

ReferendUMS?? Eh?

Is it so very hard to get to grips with some basic Latin? And all this is Crystal Marked by the Plain English Campaign (tut tut).

So, you good people at PEC, let me help you out here:

One referendum
Two referenda

One forum
Two fora
(Yes, I know it sounds a little weird, but you’ll get used to it.)

One florilegium*
Two florilegia

Et cetera.
Ad infinitum.
Blah blah blah.

* You should expect at least one opportunity to use this word during your time on the planet. As it happens, I’ve already had mine.


I was out walking the chicklets yesterday, when I came over the brow of a hill and spotted a dead West Highland Terrier on the side of the road.

[Cut to train of thought.]

Oh God! It’s a dead West Highland Terrier!
[moves to within 100 yards of dead dog]
Oh God. What is it DOING there? Must have been run over by a car.
[by now about 50 yards away]
Oh God. I wonder if it is horribly maimed (I have no stomach for gore).
[moves in to a few feet from object]
Oh God…
[shuts eyes]
Oh. It’s a rock.

Think I might need to have my eyes tested…


Anyhoo. Back home. A quick blast of some vintage Dolly Parton and all was good in the world again…


12 Comments so far
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when we were small (and christmas trees were tall) we made my mum go back to the water mill on the way home from school as we’d seen a dead body. honest, it was.

except it was a log. hum.

Comment by surly girl

I’m really, really sorry but…

Q. Is the word “referendums” the correct plural of “referendum” ?

The following is an extract from the CD version of the Oxford English Dictionary in relation to this question –

referendum (rEf@”rEnd@m). Pl. referendums, -enda.
[L., gerund or neut. gerundive of referre to refer.]
1. The practice or principle (in early use chiefly associated with the Swiss constitution) of submitting a question at issue to the whole body of voters.
In terms of its Latin origin, referendums is logically preferable as a modern plural form meaning ballots on one issue (as a Latin gerund referendum has no plural); the Latin plural gerundive referenda, meaning ‘things to be referred’, necessarily connotes a plurality of issues. Those who prefer the form referenda are presumably using words like agenda and memoranda as models. Usage varies at the present time (1981), but The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (1981) recommends referendums, and this form seems likely to prevail.

I feel bad, but the truth must be told.

And I once sat and watched a perched owl for 30 minutes, waiting for it to fly. It didn’t, as it was a tree stump. šŸ˜¦

Comment by Stef the engineer

modern plural form” – tuh!

well, of course, i was inferring the plural gerundive and yes, i was intending to connote a plurality of issues

oxford dictionary oxford schmictionary! i studied the cambridge latin primer in which i think you will find:

metella est mater (and)
caecilius est pater

(who can forget when metella bought son quintus a new toga for his birthday? ah…)

oh, and welcome! šŸ˜‰

Comment by Urban Chick

Sometimes you concern me (W. Highland Terrier); other times you make me SO proud (referenda). xoxo

Comment by mireille

UC, this post is an excellent floralegium of your random thoughts and ideas. šŸ™‚ There, I’ve used it now too and hope to never have to again. I don’t wish to obfuscate with big, obscure words. I’m just a simple country girl LOL.
Good news about the dead dog that wasn’t a dead dog. You don’t want to have to deal with that. I found a dead one in the ditch up the road last autumn. I stopped, looked for a collar and and i.d., but couldn’t find a tag. Then I was tortured all winter, thinking about it laying there and wondered how bad I’d feel if my dog disappeared and never knew what happened to it.

oh, and yes, maybe an eye exam would be a good idea buddy. šŸ™‚

Comment by Kyahgirl

I refused to go in the kitchen, because it looked like a snake was on the floor. I screamed so loud I could be heard five blocks away — by the time the fire truck came, I had discovered that it was a brown string used to wrapped the turkey in. I was realy embarassed trying to explain this to the fire marshall. I was glad I didn’t get a ticket!

I enjoyed my visit — thanks!

Comment by Liquidplastic

this reminded me of a certain father rooster calling out the police to investigate a dead body he’d seen whilst walking the dog on the old railway path at night. Lets face it, anyone can mistake a rolled up carpet for a corpse and to be fair it was the sort of place you might expect to find a dead body. What swung it for him I beleive was that “the dog started barking and acting all funny”. Whta he forgets is that the dog does that when he sees a shadow or a dinosaur on TV. He’s a collie.

Comment by suburban bantam

“metella est mater (and)
caecilius est pater

(who can forget when metella bought son quintus a new toga for his birthday? ah…)”

Oooh! I remember this! And the old “joke,” when we’d got good enough, about Caecilius in latrina dormit. And I vaguely remember the Latin teacher doing made up declensions that ended up with “micimus” and “minimus”. Laugh! We nearly did. There was a man who did for comedy…

Was that the series which had everything happening in the shadow of Pompeii, and it all ended horribly? Here’s a family we’ll introduce you to, let you get to know, then eradicate horribly at the end of book two. Rather a lot of emotional loading for eleven year olds, I thought.

“oh, and welcome! ;)”
Thank you for having me. I did remember to wipe my feet!

Comment by Stef the engineer

“Media”. That’s my contribution.

”who can forget when metella bought son quintus a new toga for his birthday? ah…”
Sooo nice to be back.. I’ve almost caught up on everything you’ve written šŸ™‚

Regarding the dog, I once did that with a plastic garden pot at my friend’s house, saying to myself as I approached, “HOW could my cat have come all this way here? SURELY he didn’t follow me?”

Comment by Justine

Ah yes, deal little suburban bantam, well do I remember the incident of the body in the carpet. All I can say in relation to the incident of the dead dog, is that the old rooster and I are just glad it was you who decided to pursue a veterinary career and not your sister. Oh, and by the way, UC, it’s actually a West Highland Terrier. As an ex Latin teacher one likes to be accurate.

Comment by motherhen

Being rather an expert in these matters, I noted the dog breed error immediately but felt that to point it out would appear petty, if not pedantic. Glad someone else felt able to do so. By the way, in the profession they’re known as WHWTs – West Highland White Terriers. Just sayin’…

Comment by suburban bantam

suburban bantam: we are the children of pedants so it’s only to be expected…

[just texting you the number for pedants anonymous…]

Comment by Urban Chick

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